When it was confirmed that I was pregnant with my second child, I couldn’t have been happier. I was so excited that I didn’t think much of the “dark spot” they saw in my ultrasound. The OB referred me to see surgeon Dr. Moore, where he did a rectal scope to take a biopsy of the mass they found. It was confirmed that it was a tumor. I had stage 3 colorectal cancer, at just 24 years young and six weeks pregnant.
My heart fell to the bottom of my stomach, my excitement and happiness instantly shattered. The emotions I felt were incomparable to anything I had ever felt before. I was terrified and overwhelmingly numb.
The next few weeks were spent meeting with many different people, oncologists, radiologists, OBGYNs, geneticists. Each offering me as much information as they could provide to help me make the best choice for me and my baby. I decided to face the risks and keep the pregnancy. The plan was to do chemotherapy (after getting through my first trimester) then deliver my baby. I would then do six weeks of chemo/radiation, before having surgery to remove my colon, rectum and anus, leaving me with a permanent ileostomy bag. Other women had been treated when pregnant and delivered healthy babies. If they could do it, then I would too.
Before starting treatment my labs showed that my iron levels and blood counts were extremely low due to all of the bleeding from my rectum. Doctors didn’t know how I was still standing up. I had to have eight iron infusions and get three blood transfusions. Chemotherapy on top of being pregnant and caring for a very energetic two-year-old, was no doubt the hardest thing I had ever done. The battle of fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, neuropathy, appointments, body aches and headaches was vicious and seemed never ending. When I completed treatment, my MRI results showed that my tumor had shrunk. My miracle baby girl was born healthy and strong.
After giving birth I met with my gynecologist and he recommended I have surgery to pin my ovaries up and out into my abdomen so they would be at less risk of being damaged from the radiation and to prevent me from going into early menopause. Also that I have my fallopian tubes removed because after radiation I would be at a much higher risk of getting other cancers. So I had that surgery and started chemo/radiation a week after that. It was intense. For six weeks I woke up at 6:30am to make my 7:30am appointments. The days were very long and I felt completely drained the entire time. My supportive family kept me going through every rough day and night.
Now here we are, 13 months later and I am having surgery at the end of November. Again, I cannot describe the numerous emotions I feel as I am two weeks away from being a survivor! I wish no one ever had to fight this battle. I am truly blessed though. After all of this I have my strong, supportive and healthy family, I will get to watch both my daughters grow up together. She saved my life and I saved hers, the best blessing in disguise I’ve ever received. I hope to inspire anyone who may unfortunately have to fight this disease, that it can be done, to never stop fighting.
Neyna Minert is a Vermont-based mother.
Talk to your doctor about colon cancer testing and testing guidelines if you have a family history of colon cancer.